Selma, we have a budget

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 11, 2005

After months of work, the City of Selma has a budget for the 2004-2005 fiscal year.

In a 6-3 vote, the City Council adopted the proposed budget presented to them by Mayor James Perkins Jr. Monday night in council chambers.

“I’m excited about it,” Perkins said. “This was different from any other budgeting process. It was more about coming up with some cost reduction strategies. It was very complicated.”

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The budget projects very little change in revenue from last year’s budget to this year’s but cuts roughly $230,000 off of last year’s budgeted general fund. The general budget is projected to be $236,887.56 under projected revenue.

The budget, which drew heavy debate in the weeks up to its passage, got relatively little debate Monday night though some of the members objected strenuously to it.

“The biggest problem we have is crime and state law says a budget can only appropriate 90 percent of projected revenues,” councilman Cecil Williamson said. “If we pass this budget we’re breaking the law. We’re sending a message to the criminals in this city that city officials have no regard for the law of the state of Alabama.”

Councilwoman Bennie Ruth Crenshaw responded with a reference to an embezzling scandal in which $1 million was stolen from the city in the late 1990’s.

“Those criminals are gone now,” she said. “We need to make every effort to get that money back.”

Councilman Reid Cain said the council members needed more time to review the latest draft of the budget.

“We still have a lot of information we have to go through,” Cain said. “There are increases throughout the budget.

You don’t cut agencies and increase the mayor’s office.”

The other “n”o vote came from Council President George Evans who simply wanted more time and some questions answered before going forward.

“I’m concerned about passing a budget without having more information,” Evans said. “There are so many things happening around here that council members don’t know about.”

The final budget was supposed to be delivered to council members on Jan. 4, however, due to some difficulties, it was delayed until Jan. 6.

Then some final corrections were made before the council meeting yesterday.

Perkins, however, said the changes in the final budget were few.

“The thing is the budget that you all had prior to Tuesday, only six lines changed in the revision between the one you had on Thursday,” Perkins said.

Another point of contention came when Cain offered an amendment to councilman Johnnie Leashore’s motion to pass the budget.

Cain asked that the names of employees be included along with their job description on the budget.

Cain and other members agreed that typically final budgets contained the names of the employees.

“We didn’t want to be dragging names and personalities into the process,” Perkins said.

Cain’s amendment was voted down, 5-4 with Evans, councilwoman Jean Martin, Cain and Williamson against.

Councilwoman Geraldine Allen explained her vote, “I do feel we must pass a budget and I am now going on faith that we will do this the correct way and we will know the names of those individuals,” she said.

Williamson then made a motion to table the discussion until the next meeting.

“You know it’s not going to pass but you might as well get it over with,” Evans said. “I personally would like for us to have to the next meeting.”

Williamson’s motion was beaten 5-4 and the council moved forward with a vote on the budget.

Evans voted against saying he would have liked more time. Williamson also voted no before Cain spoke.

“For the record this banker, financial analyst,” he said before being interrupted by catcalls from the audience, “manager, businessperson votes no.”

The rest of the council voted to pass the budget though debate on the matter didn’t end there.

The budget, and the prudence of its passage, remained a topic throughout the meeting.

“It’s amazing even after it’s past there’s still some questions,” Perkins said. “This process was really complicated, some people still don’t understand it. What we’re basically doing is reengineering government so things are going to look a lot different as we move into the process and as we implement these changes.”

Editor’s Note: Because of the length of the meeting other stories from the meeting will be covered in tomorrow’s edition.

In other items the council:

Heard from a former city employee about the proposed – later passed –

changes to the retiree insurance benefit plan.

Debated the merits of the process underway to select a municipal judge.

Discussed stronger enforcement of the noise ordinance.

Councilwoman Janie Venter said that fines should be handed out for offenders on a regular basis.

Debated dividing the council’s travel budget into equal shares.

That motion was defeated.

Heard from Sarah Harris from the March of Dimes.

Harris asked for the council’s support for the upcoming March of Dimes walk in April.

She asked that council members consider forming a team as well as the City of Selma.

Discussed the merits of regular work sessions. The general consensus was to leave work sessions to the discretion of the president.

Agreed to pay Rev. John C. Jones for some service rendered to the city under an oral agreement with former City Councilman B.L. Tucker.

According to City Attorney Jimmy Nunn, Tucker agreed to pay Jones and another man for work cleaning up bricks, and debris from the remnants of a mobile home that presented a possible danger within his ward.

Nunn said it appeared that Tucker planned to use Oil-Lease money for the transaction but was informed he could not.

Though he planned to have the city get the money back from the property owner, Tucker had no discretionary funds left to use, according to Nunn.

Evans noted that he had asked Tucker to come to the meeting, but apparently he could not.

The council voted to give Jones $50 each out of their discretionary fund and Jones agreed to drop the final $50 in return.

The council plans to recoup the money from the property’s owner.